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Difference Between Leadership and Management: What Is It?

The terms leadership and management are often used interchangeably. However, there is a big difference between the two.

Leaders inspire and motivate people to achieve a common goal, while managers plan and organise resources to achieve that goal. In other words, leaders set the direction and culture of an organisation, while managers make sure that everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

Both leadership and management are essential for any organisation to be successful.

Some people are born leaders, while others develop leadership skills over time. Similarly, some people are natural managers, while others have to learn how to be effective managers.

There is no one right way to lead or manage.

The most important thing is that the leader or manager understands the team or organisation they are working with and adapts their style to suit the situation.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the differences between leadership and management — as well as going through the skills required to be a good leader and manager, and how to improve them.

In order to further understand the differences between the two, we will also touch upon some leadership and management styles.

Let’s get started!

Illustrating the Difference Between Leadership and Management

If you are still confused by how leaders and managers differ, let’s take a look at it from a sporting perspective:

Imagine you are the captain of a sports team.

As the leader, it is your job to set the direction of the team and inspire your teammates to win. Leaders inspire.

As the manager, it is your job to make sure that everyone is training properly and has the right equipment. Managers coordinate.

Both leadership and management are important for any team to be successful.

Skills Required to be a Good Leader

Being a good leader requires skills that can be written down on your CV, but it also requires a number of soft skills that aren’t as objective. Let’s go through the 5 main skills required to be a good leader.


Leaders need to be able to communicate their vision clearly and concisely. They also need to be good listeners so that they can understand the needs of their team.

When the going gets tough, leaders have to be cool, calm and collected. They need to take a deep breath and find out ways to solve the problem by communicating effectively.

woman presenting

Decision Making

Leaders also have to be able to make tough decisions quickly. They must weigh up all the options and make the best decision for the team.

Delegating tasks effectively is also a crucial part of leadership, so that everyone is working towards the same goal.

Emotional Intelligence

Having an understanding of and being able to control their own emotions is a vital part of being a leader.

They also need to be able to read the emotions of others so that they can manage them effectively. Leaders who can stay calm under pressure and make rational decisions are far more likely to be successful.

Strategic Thinking

Leaders have to see the big picture. They need to be able to think long-term and plan for the future.

In general life, those of us who can think strategically are more likely to be successful in achieving our goals.


Leaders need to be able to inspire people to achieve common goals.

When tough times start showing their ugly faces, a good leader has to be able to motivate their team to keep going.

Skills Required to be a Good Manager

A lot of the skills that make up a great leader also make up a great manager. There are a few key differences which have been highlighted below.

Planning and Organisation

Managers need to be able to plan and organise resources effectively.

They need to be able to create schedules, set deadlines and make sure that everyone is working towards the same goal.


Managers also need to be able to communicate quickly and without fail. As they are leading the team and so are likely to be part of important meetings, time is of the essence and they have to make sure they are clear with whatever they say.

They need to be able to give instructions, provide feedback and resolve conflicts.

Since managers tend to control the activities of a large group of people, the clarity of their communication is critical for success.


Managers need to be able to identify and solve problems quickly. They need to be able to find creative solutions and avoid making the same mistakes twice.


Similar to leaders, managers also need to be able to delegate tasks effectively.

Due to the large number of people they have under their control, managers have to accept that they can’t do all the work themselves.

Hence delegation to juniors is crucial to managerial success.

person standing in front of river with arms wide

5 Common Styles of Leadership and Management

There are many different leadership and management styles, but the most common ones are as follows:

1. Autocratic

Leaders make all the decisions and expect people to follow them without question. This style can be effective in times of crisis, but it can also be very unpopular in some instances and lead to resentment among employees.

2. Democratic

This style consists of the top dogs consulting with their team and taking everyone’s opinions into account before making a decision.

This can be more popular and can lead to better morale and buy-in from employees, but it can also be slower and less decisive which isn’t ideal in times where decisions need to be made quickly.

3. Laissez-faire

This happens when leaders give their team complete freedom to work however they want. This can lead to creativity and innovation, but it can also be chaotic and unproductive as employees are given free reign to do as they wish.

It can be a good leadership style if your team is already experienced and you have been working with them for a long while. You need a certain degree of trust for this style to be a success.

4. Transformational

Leaders motivate and inspire their team to achieve something greater than themselves. This requires a lot of trust and faith from employees.

It usually works best with research-based companies that rely on their employees to come up with fresh ideas.

one man making chess move

5. Servant

Leaders focus on meeting the needs of their team and helping them to grow and develop. This style is very effective in building strong relationships, but it can also be seen as weak or passive.

5 Ways Good Leadership can Help Your Firm

Being a good leader can help a firm in a number of ways. Leaders and managers are, after all, the ones at the helm of it all.

They set the tone from the top and help the firm from there.

Here are 5 ways being a good leader can help your firm:

1. Leaders can create a shared vision that everyone in the organisation can buy into. By creating a vision and setting goals, employees will be more motivated and feel encouraged to stay at the firm. This can improve retention rates at the firm and therefore result in cost-saving.

2. Leaders can help to build a positive culture within the organisation. A positive culture can improve employee morale and motivation, which can lead to increased productivity.

3. Leaders can communicate effectively with employees. This two-way communication will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.

4. Leaders can help to resolve conflicts within the organisation. By resolving conflicts, employees will feel more valued and appreciated, which can lead to increased loyalty and commitment to the firm.

5. Leaders can provide employees with guidance and support. This can help employees to develop their skills and knowledge, which can lead to increased productivity and improved job satisfaction.

teacher teaching student on computer

How Can You Become a Better Leader?

There are many different styles of leadership, and the best leaders are always learning and evolving. Here are a few ways to become a better leader:

1. Be authentic

Authentic leaders are those who lead with their true selves. They are not afraid to show vulnerability or be honest about their mistakes.

People are drawn to authentic leaders because they can relate to them and trust them.

2. Be coachable

The best leaders are always learning and growing. They seek out feedback and take on board constructive criticism.

They know that they cannot improve if they are not open to change.

3. Be inspiring

People want to follow leaders who have a vision and are passionate about achieving it. Inspiring leaders motivate and encourage others to reach their full potential.

4. Be decisive

Leaders need to be able to make tough decisions, even when they are not popular. What matters most is that the decision is in line with the leader’s values and goals.

5. Be compassionate

Compassionate leaders care about their people and want to see them succeed. They create an environment where people feel valued and supported.

The Bottom Line

The differences between leadership and management are clear to see. Although sometimes interchangeable, leaders are responsible for inspiring and whereas managers are more involved in the day-to-day operations of a firm.

We have discussed what it takes to be a good leader and manager, as well as some main leadership and management styles.

Hopefully, you now have a good idea on how to differentiate between the two!